Cars

CNU

CNU – The Congress of New Urbanism.

I was first introduced to CNU at least a decade ago when I read my first book by Andres Duany. Since then CNU has grown from being an organization almost exclusively of architects and urban planners. to a group that encompasses and reaches out to folks of all aspects of development, sales, planning, and more.

This past year, they hosted a film competition. The winner was this 3 minute film.

The End of the Cul-de-Sac

When I started studying New Urbanism some 9 or 10 years ago, I think I was shocked to find that there were really good reasons not to do the things that seem so obvious to us.

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1) Wide Roads are safer than narrow roads. Of Course this is true. After all, there is far less chance of hitting something if you have plenty of space to drive.

2) Cul-de-sacs are safer. Another no brainer. After all, no one drives down a cul-de-sac if they don’t need to be somewhere at the end of the road. Less traffic = less accidents. Further, dead end roads mean that robbers won’t dare to try and target you, as they have no where to go.

Well, both of these statements are actually false, and now Virginia is leading the way to correct and change the way developers build. Statistics show that wide roads are far more dangerous, as drivers become complacent. Roads that have unexpected stops and curves (such as our Park Street after “traffic calming measures” were installed) cause drivers to slow down, and thus drive more carefully. Wide roads, even when in subdivisions lined with homes and kids playing, promote excessive speed.
As for cul-de-sacs, they cause more damage than they prevent. First off, rescue vehicles take far more time (and expense) to navigate neighborhoods full of cul-de-sacs. They increase distances between two points thus increasing the number of vehicle miles driven, and the decreasing the likelyhood that people will walk from point to point.

Well, Tim Kaine and the Virginia Legislature has done something about it. Check out the full report if you can’t fall asleep tonight. (It can also be accessed on my Report Download Page.) Finding ways to enforce powers not granted to legislative bodies has been a pastime for both our national and state governing bodies for decades, and this is no exception. The Federal Governement can’t dictate state drinking ages, so it instead refuses to give out Federal Highway Funds to any state not cooperating with their “recommendations.” The State can’t impose development guidelines, so instead it offers these recommendations to developers. The punishment for non-compliance is that the roads within the subdivision will not be accepted by VDOT for ongoing maintenance. Too expensive? Yup… Developers will take note.

The new regulations don’t outlaw cul-de-sacs, but they do create pretty substantial penalties for not connecting to nearby neighborhoods. Devotees of New Urbanism will applaud these actions. For a generation, the goal has been to live at the end of the cul-de-sac with minimal traffic so your children can play outdoors. The new goal will be to create neighborhoods where once again, children can ride their bikes to school without having to venture out onto a major artery.

The new regulations only affect urban and suburban areas, and to differing degrees, but the direction this is clearly taking is outstanding. Create a network of streets that allow pedestrians younger and older to walk and ride bikes where they need to go. I can’t wait to see this taking shape.

Cars that Tweet

I love stupid TV shows. You know, the kind that attempt to impart some info, but are really purely informational entertainment. Well, one of my favorites in this category is Top Gear. Three brits talking about cars, but nothing you ever really need to know about cars, and certainly not about cars you would ever buy. These guys drive SUVs with huge wheels and nitro boost engines across lakes without sinking. They launch Mini Coopers off ski jumps. The test drive Toyota wheelchairs that go 20 MPH and send out Tweets to other wheelchairs about where they are going.

Wait a second. What was that? Wheelchairs that tweet? Interesting glimpse into our future. Toyota calls it a iWheel and it is cool… and it is coming… in 2010.

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(Note: While typing this post, I found 3 sites that had the Top Gear clip on-line. By the time I finished the post, all three had been removed for Copyright infringement. These guys are good.)

The iWheel is a comfortable Segway. Kick back in your chair and go all over town, indoors and out. But, what makes this different is that it is a socially networked scooter / chair / car thingy. When you want coffee, it calls out to all the other iWheels in town and says its going for coffee, and invites them to join you. I suppose it will be easy to determine who sent out this Tweet as its unlikely that there will be more than one iWheel at Greenberry’s at Barracks Road in Charlottesville at any one time in the near future.

Anyway, if you wondered if TwitterBerry could fit on other devices than the BlackBerry, now we know. It absolutely can. Your car is going to tell the world what you are doing. Scary, but oh so cool.

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